The following narrative was written to provide teachers with an accessible account of Eli Whitney’s life and his place in our history. His spirit of inventiveness and accomplishments have made him the best known New Havener.
The narrative is readable enough, I hope, for sixth and eighth grade students, so that they may use it directly to gain an understanding of Whitney’s role in American industrial progress and be proud of his relationship to New Haven. He might become for some of our students a symbol of achievement—a person who used his imagination to its fullest extent.
The learning packet offers an opportunity for the students to learn about other New Haven inventors as well. Using Whitney and inventing as a reference, the students may then consider their possible future careers by exploring what they could offer, the need for education and what some jobs are like. Either the entire packet or selected parts may be used, depending upon the achievement level of the students. The packet may be used in teaching the industrial period in American history or in the study of New Haven as part of a Connecticut curriculum.
The packet can be used independently by the students or according to the suggested schedule. Some of the activities may be assigned as homework and all students should be encouraged to complete at least one of the Quest Activities for extra credit, due at a later date. It would be helpful to make a chart of the activities, options and self-tests to serve as a checklist for student progress and grading.
As an alternative, the teacher may present the packet in a traditional manner. The content narrative may serve as a basis for a series of lectures or as an introduction for the sub-concepts. Lectures, classroom activities, homework and testing can be employed according to the needs of the class.
A class trip to the Inventor’s Room at the New Haven Colonial Historical Society or a trip to the Eli Whitney Barn Museum are recommended.